Review: Love at First (ARC)

Expected publication: February 23rd 2021. 320 pages

Author: Kate Clayborn

Sixteen years ago, a teenaged Will Sterling saw–or rather, heard–the girl of his dreams. Standing beneath an apartment building balcony, he shared a perfect moment with a lovely, warm-voiced stranger. It’s a memory that’s never faded, though he’s put so much of his past behind him. Now an unexpected inheritance has brought Will back to that same address, where he plans to offload his new property and get back to his regular life as an overworked doctor. Instead, he encounters a woman, two balconies above, who’s uncannily familiar . . .

No matter how surprised Nora Clarke is by her reaction to handsome, curious Will, or the whispered pre-dawn conversations they share, she won’t let his plans ruin her quirky, close-knit building. Bound by her loyalty to her adored grandmother, she sets out to foil his efforts with a little light sabotage. But beneath the surface of their feud is an undeniable connection. A balcony, a star-crossed couple, a fateful meeting–maybe it’s the kind of story that can’t work out in the end. Or maybe, it’s the perfect second chance . . . 

A slow-burn romance that begins in a chance encounter in childhood and navigates through the enemies-to-lovers troupe creates an interesting and heart-warming story.  We open the story in the prologue featuring a young Will hearing the girl of his dreams only to have him meet her again 16 years later. It was a great hook to get the reader into the story as you become intrigued by Will’s life as there is family arguing taking place and you have his young love romantic mystery woman all in the prologue and you can’t wait to get into the story to see how everything will play out.

When Donny suddenly passes away, the fellow residents of his building are all concerned about what will become of his now vacant apartment. One of those residents is Nora, a work from home worker for a San Diego firm, who recently moved in full time after her grandmother passed away.  Since childhood, she and the other residents of the building have been a makeshift family and she fears that the new resident will disrupt the harmony they have in their older, slightly run down, building. Enter the new resident, Will, a doctor, who is Donny’s nephew. Once Will enters the picture, he feels a pull to Nora as she could be the one from the balcony all those years ago.

Will does not have good memories associated with his new apartment from past incidents and wants to lease it out as he is obligated to keep it for a year per Donny’s will.  As Nora and the other residents are protective of their building, a rivalry starts between Nora and Will. However, feelings start to develop between them, but due to Will’s fear of becoming like his parents, he avoids giving in to those feelings.  Their story is told from third person compared to most stories of this genre that are told from the point of view of one or both of the main characters so we see closer looks at their inner thoughts. From this writing style, we still get told about each character and why they are making certain decisions, while not being direct inner thoughts.

The other residents and their bonds are the true stars of the story as this Chicago building has become a true family even though they are not related by blood. Together they watch out for each other and always want the best, even if it means being a little nosy into each other’s lives. This story is definitely worth a read to those who want a story for people coming together for both the good and bad times was extremely heart-warming and well worth reading the story just for this portion.

The moments of sabotage were entertaining, but the relationship between both of the main characters was hard to get in to. The chemistry between them was hot and cold throughout as there were times when I felt the tension between them and others where it just didn’t feel natural. Will and Nora both had pieces that I liked about them as characters, but neither fully grew on me to where I loved them by the end. I appreciate where the author was trying to go with them, but something just didn’t quite click for me with them as a potential couple. However, the bonds each of them form (or had formed) with the other residents of the building was amazing. I love how Will came in as an outsider and even though he wasn’t planning on staying, he always tried to make sure the other residents didn’t see him fully as the enemy and he tried to bond with them.

Overall, this novel was hits and misses, but I still enjoyed it overall. It flows nicely from beginning to end and I felt like the author did a good job painting a picture of this building and its residents. The growth the characters experience was very heart-warming and I love the concept of a family that’s not related by blood and instead by the bonds they’ve formed. Kate Clayborn has definitely intrigued me and I can’t wait to get my hands on her other books to try!

**Thank you very much to NetGalley and Kensington Books for my ARC to read. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

2 thoughts on “Review: Love at First (ARC)

  1. Great review! I’ve been looking forward to this one as I read Clayborn’s Love Lettering earlier this year and absolutely loved it. It’s always hard to feel invested in a story when you don’t 100% click with the characters but I love the strong community vibe you mention 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t read Love Lettering yet, but it’s now on my TBR list! I love the community vibe as it makes me miss living in a building compared to a house where it’s a little more separate. 🙂


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